GatorCast Ep. 10: Making your resume work for you
By College Relations, Media Services and the Office of the President, July 10, 2019
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Editors note: Amrit Gill recently accepted a new position at Green River College as the program manager for our business-related Bachelor of Applied Science programs. Career Services can be contacted at 253-833-9111, ext. 2641 or email@example.com.
President Johnson: Welcome To Green River College's GatorCast. This is Green River College's podcast series. This is Suzanne Johnson, President at Green River College. We've been exploring a variety of topics that are especially relevant to the students Green River College and today our topic is employment opportunities and employment readiness. And we are with Amrit Gill who is an employment specialist. if I'm remembering correctly, your office is in the Career and Advising Center. Welcome Amrit.
Amrit Gill: Hi, happy to be here.
President Johnson: Yeah, it's great to have you here. One of the most common things that students ask me is how do I get a job? How do I get a job when I finish college? And so that is one of the reasons that you're here today. So before we get into this whole employment readiness and how to go about finding your next steps in terms of employment, after being a student at Green River. Tell us about yourself.
Amrit Gill: Yeah, so I have had a variety of work experiences, and I think that helps me see multiple lenses into opportunities, and also helps me to help students sell themselves better too, because I've had to do just that. Working anything from being a nurse assistant to teaching English abroad, to helping brand management for music labels. There's been a variety of things to do and every time I went for another opportunity that might have not been related to my previous experiences, I've had to sell myself to such an ability, and I love being able to show people that, that it doesn't matter what you've worked as, you brought some type of strength, some type of skill on, so that's why I find this work pretty rewarding.
President Johnson: You just shared a whole bunch of things that I would rather have a podcast about on another day, besides talking about career readiness today. Just wanna circle back, though, a little bit. So you've had a lot of different employment experiences which is so great for our students to listen to and hear, because I think sometimes when they see people working at a college they think that that's what they went to school for, that was their destination, they took the courses, they got their, they got the job, and they're done, not realizing that any number of us at a college or business wherever it might be, have really interesting journeys to get to the place that they are at at this particular time. And I think a lot of our students are exploring, and they come into the college with different histories and experiences. They come in and out of the college gaining more experience. Just kinda curious, you taught English abroad. Where was that?
Amrit Gill: In China, in a small Island called Hainan. It's right next to Hong Kong.
President Johnson: When did you do that and for how long?
Amrit Gill: That was 2014 to '15. That was particularly memorable, because traveling had always been one of my dreams, and that was the first venture I took for that dream to come true. And I can't underemphasize, circling this back, to the people who were my advisors at the time, to the supervisors that I was employed under, and their encouragement towards these things. And it's interesting because that became such a moving part of me emotionally, but also professionally. Like now, even when I was applying for this job, it became a plus on there, to see you're willing to try new things, you're willing to take on these new responsibilities, these things that you might have not had much resource on. It's a whole 'nother country. But yeah, it was amazing. I think students, I'm just gonna rant here a little bit, but I think students see like career and employment as this certain stage of their life, rather than a fluid experience throughout their whole lives. And I mean--
President Johnson: Ah, good point, good point.
Amrit Gill: I think I had to learn that when I started advising students on employment readiness, that it's like whatever you've already done is a part of your career exploration. Your whole life is just trying to figure out what am I into? And it all melds together in the end.
President Johnson: It's so interesting that you bring this up, becausecause in an earlier podcast, which will have aired by the time this one is out, we had Josh Staffiari and, one of our Career Specialists at Green River, and we talked exactly about what you just said, which is when students are choosing what to study at college, whether it was here or wherever they transfer, or they're thinking about, what do I wanna do when I'm done being a student? They often times think about that this is like, as you're saying, this is the time when I'm supposed to make this decision, and that's the decision I'm gonna be with for the rest of my life, and that's such a unbelievable amount of pressure to put on yourself, and sometimes it leave students in a, sort of a paralysis state, that they are so overwhelmed by thinking that they have to make a decision for their whole life, that they just can't, 'cause they're afraid to make the wrong decision. When in reality, as you say, it's a journey. It's very fluid. So you make the decision right now that best suits who you are now. It might not be the right decision five, 10, 15 years down the line. So that opens up a really great segue into our topic today, which is all about employment readiness and exploring career options after being a student at Green River. And so I'd like to ask you, what are some of the fundamentals that Green River students should think about when it comes to being ready to apply for a job or pursue a particular career?
Amrit Gill: I always advise students, at least start off with a master resume, and a master resume is just a complete collection of all the activities you've ever done, employment that you've ever had, club activities, volunteer experiences, just keep that master record, so even if you decide to, even if you don't even keep it in resume format, if you just have them in a collection, then you can put it easily into a resume later on, and you have the exact dates of when you did those things, you have the descriptions of things you did so that you can remember it later to draw from. So collect your experiences. They're all valuable. Even if you don't feel like, oh I just did this side project, et cetera, it's probably much more important than you think it is, especially when you start to sell yourself to employers. Secondly, I would say keep in mind the professionalism skills that you have. And this might be how good are you at expressing yourself verbally? How good are you at expressing yourselves in writing, especially through emails? And there's a variety of ways to check this, and I would always advise talking to your teachers, talking to your advisors, getting some pointers on these types of things, because it's going to affect everything that comes through going through your programs, and afterwards, if you're seeking employment. If you're working on it now the skill will build exponentially. Another thing I really like to do with students, because I feel it's integral is reflecting on your past experiences and what did you enjoy about those experiences? Some people really enjoy leading a team, leading a group through an activity or a project that they had in class. Some people really, really enjoy public speaking, believe it or not, and just drawing upon those.
President Johnson: I think that's, a lot of students that are listening to this are thinking no--
Amrit Gill: Nope!
President Johnson: Public speaking, no, right?
Amrit Gill: But you'd be surprised, once you start drawing on these past experiences, you like doing things that you were like, oh yeah, of course I like that, but you never really thought about it. You're always looking to these new subjects and new topics, which is amazing, and new opportunities, and thinking what would I possibly like from these experiences? But you should really actually reflect on what have you enjoyed thus far about your experiences, and use that to propel the decisions forward, if that makes sense.
President Johnson: You know, these are great pieces of advice, because one of the things we like to do in as many podcasts as possible, is we like to give students action steps. What should they do next after listening to this episode? And creating this, as you're calling it, a master resume, what a great tool, which is essentially the student collecting all of the experiences they've done, and for some, I mean, they've had lots of part-time jobs, lots of full-time jobs, maybe even, even while they're going to school, or they've done all kinds of volunteer activities. So, here's an action everybody, making time to start jotting down, what was my first work experience, or what was my first volunteer experience, and starting to log that in on a piece of paper or papers as it might be, and remembering the dates, the years, how long you did things. I think that's a great piece of action advice. The other that you were just mentioning in terms of reflecting on the experiences, this becomes a really interesting action item for all of our listeners, too, because no matter what we're doing, sometimes we like to think about we do next. People wanna know, what's the right next thing to do? So as you're pointing out, not just logging all these experiences, but recall, reflect back on, was this one of the most fun things you've ever done? Was it one of the most enjoyable things? And the alternative is also true. Was that a thing that you would never, in your wildest dreams, ever wanna ever get involved with doing again, right? And I'm sure we all have some of those really great joy moments, and some of those really oh, never again, I'm so glad I survived that, kind of moments. That is really helpful I think, for students, on a couple of levels. One is it's helping them become more focused on the types of careers that might be the ones that they would want to pursue again or in the future, but it also helps them identify areas that they might wanna study. Are you finding that students, when you meet with students, and I guess you're an advisor in our Career and Advising office, in fact, maybe we should talk about how can people find you at the end of this podcast today? Where are you located on this campus?
Amrit Gill: Oh yeah, I'm in SA149, in the Career and Advising center. We are called, at least the department that I work in is Career Services, but we're in that same office. You just go to the front desk, just state your problem, and we'll help you find an advisor that can answer your questions.
President Johnson: Excellent. So when students meet with you, and you recommend creating this master resume, asking them to reflect on their experiences, what's the usual reaction?
Amrit Gill: It takes time to draw out these answers, so there might be a little pondering, but it's really interesting what comes out, because these are natural responses people have to say, stress, because I like to ask, all right, that job that you had, what problem arose that you remember, and how did you deal with that problem? So I'm not drawing a positive experience sometimes. I'm trying to draw from a negative stressful experience. How did you react? And the way that they react is usually in an amazing manner. Like I said, some people might take leadership roles in a problematic situation. Some people are more diplomatic. Some people are more initiators and activators. And so when I get these answers, you see this like dawn upon their face like oh yeah, I tend to deal with things that way. And so that kind of soundboard, to just to get their minds jogging, I think it one of the most helpful things.
President Johnson: Wow, so it sounds to me like there's just a lot of exploration of not just what the experience was, but how they responded and reacted. Do you find that this is a process that helps students find a lot of strengths and qualities that they would not have ordinarily thought to list about themselves?
Amrit Gill: Yeah, I mean I think a lot of people expect that forward exploration, but since I really emphasize this past exploration because of that. It's one thing seeing your assessments are great, and inventories are wonderful, but sometimes it doesn't hit home when you see these strengths on a piece of paper. But when you're reflecting on your own experiences and those emotionally significant experiences, then once you realize these are my strengths, and that finally internalizes, it gives a lot more clarity on making the next decisions in your path.
President Johnson: Its really important ways to think about how to built the best way to sell yourself, in the context of, especially on paper, right? That's the initial contact anybody's going to have before the face to face interview. And that brings up the other piece of recommendation which was the professionalism aspects in terms of writing, in terms of speaking, and I know we might be fairly comfortable speaking in public. Not everyone is. But in the context of writing, we all need to have the ability to express ourselves in written form that will resonate, will make sense to another person who's reading that resume. Do you provide help for students in terms of writing their resumes?
Amrit Gill: Absolutely. That's actually a really fun thing to do because of all this drawing upon experiences and building upon the skills that they have. So I like to delve into the skills the most, but we do, we definitely do resumes, cover letters, help with mock interviews, so there's a variety of resources we can help with.
President Johnson: Now we're gonna talk about resources in just a second, and I have a feeling that we're gonna have some additional resources that we're gonna be linking to this podcast today on our website, which is greenriver.edu/gatorcast, that's actually where you can subscribe, everybody, to this podcast series. But it's also where we post resources that are linked to each of our podcasts. So let's talk a little bit more about the resume writing, and it's a starting point. Resume's a starting point to being employment-ready. What are some pointers for making a solid resume?
Amrit Gill: Yeah, like I said, the skills section is one of my favorites for that reason. I like delving into how or why a person is most skilled in that area. So for example, a very common phrase that people put on their resumes that they're an excellent communicator, which is wonderful, but everybody says that, so it's good to ask how or why are you an excellent communicator? What's kinda different from the next person to you and how you communicate with people? So it might be something like, I'm a very good listener. I'm understanding of people. I let people vent or calm down, and these are things we can make more eloquent on a resume. But if you can parse that information out and get those details out then it speaks a lot louder than just saying excellent communicator. It's way too general. And then even more, going into detail with the other parts of the resume, like the descriptions for a job. Instead of just regurgitating the roles, which a lot of people. They can look those things up. It's not pertinent. But rather to highlight projects that you might have done or any positive changes that you were part of at your workplace or your volunteer place, or your church, or what have you. That's also something that'll help you stand out a little bit more. And I would say, tailor each resume to each job.
President Johnson: A ha, not a standard resume for anything you apply to.
Amrit Gill: Oh yeah, and it's so obvious, when you see one resume that you know has been shot out to 50 positions, and you don't wanna be that person.
President Johnson: Right, right, so two things, I think I'm hearing: number one, there are some fairly standard elements to a resume. There's the personal information, contact information, there's the skill section, and then there's the job that one is seeking, or position that one is seeking. What are the other standard elements of a resume?
Amrit Gill: Well, you can put a variety of things on there. Resumes are really creative in that sense, so it depends on what position you're going for.
President Johnson: This is good to know! 'Cause sometimes--
Amrit Gill: Yeah.
President Johnson: Students think that, or anybody might think that there's one format fits all and you're saying resumes can vary in terms of format and content.
Amrit Gill: Absolutely. As I said, it totally depends on the position you're going for, what kind of field it is. Somebody who's going for graphic design is going to have a very differently tailored resume than somebody who's going for a mechanical engineering position that's going to highlight their skills. So skills is something that I think I would encourage to put on a resume, but you don't necessarily have to have it. I always say that resumes are pretty much the qualifiers for the interview, so you're selling your qualifications. If you make it to the interview, you're just selling your personality. So let's just worry about the qualifications for now, but we won't make it so dry and so general that they don't know who you are through the words. It's all you have. You have that piece of paper or PDF submitted to them and that's all they know of you, so if you can sell your skills in a personable light that's what we're trying to gear the wording towards.
President Johnson: Right, and the importance of being able to express in written form so that--
Amrit Gill: There you go! Full circle.
President Johnson: Yeah, so that you can get that in-person interview. The other thing though, I'm hearing, is that you need to tailor your resume for each job you're applying for. And I've heard in the context of, you know, even applying for colleges as transfer students, in terms of a personal statement, they need to be tailored as well. It's not, you've written your personal statement, and you just pop it into your applications to all the transfer schools. And now I'm hearing, when you're preparing a resume, each resume is designed for this specific job you're applying to.
Amrit Gill: Yeah, especially when you do this in such a general manner like shoot out the same personal statement, or what have you, there is something that is lacking, and that is the specis, the ah, I don't even know how to say it. Specificity .
President Johnson: Excellent!
Amrit Gill: It loses its passion, basically. So for example, if you are applying to the University of Washington, is there a reason which you feel passionately about entering that school, and what opportunities it might bring to you, and that gets totally lost if you're doing a general personal statement.
President Johnson: Right, because it's located in a convenient place.
Amrit Gill: Absolutely, and so if you want to sell people to why should you be there at that workplace, why you should be accepted to that school, show them what you're passionate about and that means delving into the details.
President Johnson: Of that school and what you bring to it in terms of fit.
Amrit Gill: Yeah!
President Johnson: You know, we're touching on a lot of material, and I can imagine for student listeners out there, they're thinking wow, I just wanted to know how to write a resume, and get one done, and pop it out there and get some jobs. So let's talk about resources. We started talking about that a few minutes ago. What resources do we have here for students at Green River who are looking for, getting ready to look for, employment, and they're wanting to get these materials together?
Amrit Gill: Well, professors are always a great resource. They're very aware of all the departments on campus, so always look into their office hours, see if you could just hash out, hey where do I find these resources on campus, if you're ever confused. But you can always come down to the Career and Advising center, career services are there, as I said and we could help you with your resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, or just hash out where you're at in that process. There's also the Writing Center, then they can also tutor online, so if you wanna practice your writing skills, just submit it to them online, and they'll be happy to help you, and of course, you can go in person as well. And then we have the Public Speaking Center. You can make appointments online ahead of time and that would be a great resource, especially if I know that it's very common that people are shy in terms of public speaking so that would be a great resource, and all of these things are free, so it's great to take advantage of them.
President Johnson: Well let's back up on that statement. All of these resources are free, are free, for Green River College students. Now I know that the public speaking lab is in the first floor of our library on campus. Where is our Writing Center located?
Amrit Gill: In the RLC building.
President Johnson: RLC. And then let's talk about these mock interviews, and cover letters writing workshops, and resume writing workshops. Where does a student find the schedule for that?
Amrit Gill: We don't have a schedule, actually. You would just come straight to the Career and Advising center, and go to the front desk and tell them I want a cover letter done, I want to work on a resume, and they'd actually set you up with a one-on-one appointment with a career advisor.
President Johnson: So this is appointment by demand, right? One-on-one.
Amrit Gill: One-on-one.
President Johnson: And for free.
Amrit Gill: Yep.
President Johnson: That's terrific. Lesser known things. Students sometimes don't have the opportunity when they're on campus, they're driving to campus, they hop out of the car, or the bus, get to class, do their class, and then are off campus, but all of these resources are available, absolutely. And I know that you're in the Career and Advising center, 'cause I see you often when I pass around that area. So lots of resources. Lots of ability to meet a student at a time that's convenient that will work for the student's schedule as well as staff availability. So, if there was one thing, if you could only offer one thing as advice for a student to do to prepare for the workplace world, what would it be?
Amrit Gill: I would say to ask questions, and whether that's about difficulties in your academic work, ask your professors. If you're not sure about your plan, ask the career and advising center. If you're not sure about which field you wanna go into, ask people you know that might work in those fields, or reach out on LinkedIn and ask questions. You'd be surprised how many people want to give you answers. So I feel, regardless of what point you're at in your path, asking questions will open up doors for you as well, maybe to opportunities also that you didn't really consider in the first place. So, I would say ask questions.
President Johnson: Ask questions, and that leads to ask questions of others, which brings up the important element that we encourage our Green River students every day to do, which is to reach out, connect. We are here. Amrit is here at Career and Advising. The faculty members, classroom instructors that you have, are there to not just talk about the content of that day's lecture or lab section, they're there to talk to you about your future, your career aspirations, your dreams, your fears, as are advisors, and a lot of staff on this college campus. And if you come to peace with the president, you can talk to me as well. But take that step. So many times a student thinks they're the only one that has the question they have, and they think everyone else already knows that information. I assure you that that is incorrect. If you have that question, hundreds of other students have it as well. We're all there with the same questions. Am I overstating that at all, Amrit?
Amrit Gill: No, not at all.
President Johnson: All right, it becomes so important for all of you listeners out there, especially for those Green River College students, to recognize that whatever questions you have, others have it too. That's the process part of being in college. You have more questions than you have answers, and every answer that you receive, it'll give you more questions. That's the fun and the journey of life. So, in terms of focusing on action steps, what would you say to our listeners today to do next?
Amrit Gill: I would probably draw back to the fundamentals we were talking about. If anything else, just make a little T-chart. Just put down on one side what did I like most, and on the other side, what did I like least, and just write down your experiences on the left to right and just brainstorm. Have fun with it. It's not being graded or anything. Just jot down whatever thoughts come out, and you might be surprised what you find.
President Johnson: So work on that master resume, make sure you work on the reflections in relation to how you felt about each of those items, and let's circle back to that other recommendation that Amrit gave to all of us today, which is looking at those professionalism skills, such as writing and speaking. One of the reasons that students at Green River need to take courses, regardless of what their interests and career would be, the reason that they're taking courses that require that they speak in class, taking communications classes, or that they're taking classes in English composition, is because no matter what job you do, you have to express yourself in clear ways and in ways in which employers would want you to express yourselves, in terms of representing their job, or office, or business, or company. Amrit, employment readiness?
Amrit Gill: Yeah! Come down and see us at the Career and Advising center and just set up an appointment with us. Well be happy to see you.
President Johnson: Excellent, keep in mind everybody, students who are here at Green River, are on their way to something else, whether it's another institution or the next job in their career path, we are here as a bridge and a destination for your future. You've been listening to GatorCast. That's Green River College's podcast. This is Suzanne Johnson, thanks for being with us today.